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The Young Engineers in Mexico; Or, Fighting the Mine Swindlers By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 7145

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

Don Luis Montez laid down the pen. Outwardly he was as amiable as ever; certainly he was all smiles.

"A thousand pardons, caballeros!" he murmured. "Of course, you are quite right. It had not occurred to me in that light before. True, the report was intended only for my own pleasure in later years, but that does not alter the nice point of honor."

Tom Reade was deceived by Don Luis's manner. He did not suspect that, at this very instant, the Mexican was consumed with demoniacal rage.

"I shall not be patient another time," muttered Don Luis, between his teeth and under his breath. Yet aloud he said:

"We have had too much of business to-day. We are tiring ourselves. Until dinner time let us go outside and be gentlemen. Business for to-morrow or next week. And my dear daughter. Brute! I have been forgetting her."

Senorita Francesca, a darkly beautiful girl of eighteen, shy and retiring from the convent schooling that had ended but lately, soon came downstairs at her father's summons. Dr. Tisco bowed low before the charming girl. Tom and Harry were presented, and tried to make themselves agreeable to the young Mexican girl. Senorita Francesca's shyness, however, made this somewhat difficult, so the young engineers felt inwardly grateful when Dr. Tisco strolled down the porch with her.

Dinner proved to be a somewhat formal affair. Yet, as soon as the meal was finished Senorita Francesca was escorted from the dining room by her father and returned to her room.

"What did you think of the young lady, Tom?" Harry asked his chum when he could do so privately.

"A fine-looking girl," Reade answered briefly. "But I fear she would be highly offended if she knew that, all through dinner, my every thought was on the mine and the problems that we shall find there."

"I want to talk with you about that mine, and about some impressions that I have formed here," murmured Hazelton.

"Then another time, my dear fellow, for here comes Don Luis, and

I see Dr. Tisco returning from the garden."

That forestalled conversation for the time being. When the young engineers, still relentlessly attended by Nicolas, sought their own rooms Hazelton was so drowsy that he undressed hurriedly and dropped into bed.

Later in the night Harry sat up suddenly in the dark. Some one was moving in the parlor that separated the two bedrooms. An instant after awakening Harry slipped off the bed, then stole toward the next room.

In the darkness he made out a moving figure. Like a panther Harry sprang, landing on the all but invisible figure.

"Now, I've got you!" Hazelton hissed, wrapping his arms around the prowler.

"And small credit to you," drawled Tom's dry voice. "Hist!"

"What's up?" demanded Hazelton, dropping his voice to a whisper.

"You and I are."

"But what's the matter?"

"I couldn't sleep," Tom whispered.

"You-troubled with nerves!" gasped Hazelton.

"Not just the way you understand it," returned Tom. "But I was thinking, thinking, and I sat by the window yonder. Come over there, Harry, but step without noise."

Wondering what it all meant, Hazelton softly followed his chum to the open window.

"Now, look," said Tom, pointing, "and tell me what you see."

"A moment ago I thought I saw a light twinkling over there among the hills."

"Look sixty seconds longer, and you'll see more lights, Harry; those lights are on the trail that leads from the nearest gold mines to El Sombrero. It is the trail Don Luis pointed out to us to-day."

"But what-"

"Harry, I'm going to get on my

clothes and slip over in that direction.

Do you want to go with me?"

"Yes; but what-"

"I can tell you better when we're on the way. Come on; dress! We can easily leave the house without being detected."

Though Harry had already been through hosts of adventures, he felt creepy as he dressed with speed and stealth, bent on slipping unobserved out of their employer's house. But he was used to following his chum's lead.

When both were ready, which was very soon, Tom softly opened the door of their parlor, thrusting one foot out into the broad corridor. As he did so he kicked against a man lying prostrate on the floor. It was Nicolas, the Mexican attendant, sleeping across their threshold that he might be on hand when wanted.

The man stirred, muttered something almost inaudible, then gradually began to breathe more deeply. Tom, after waiting, took a step over the body of Nicolas. Harry closed the door behind them, then followed. Soon after they stood out on the lawn.

"I'm glad Nicolas went to sleep again," muttered Tom, in a low voice. "The fellow would have insisted on following us, and I wouldn't want him with us to-night, to tell Don Luis everything."

"But what on earth-"

"Harry, old fellow, Don Luis is the essence of courtesy. He has been very polite to us, too. Yet something has aroused a suspicion in me that Don Luis Montez wishes to use us in some way that we wouldn't care to be used. So I'm saying little, but my eyes are going to be open all the time from now on."

"Oh, Don Luis must be on the square," Hazelton retorted. "What could he want of us that is crooked?"

"I don't know, yet," Tom replied, as he led the way rapidly down the road. "But I'm going to watch, and, if there's anything wrong, I'm going to get a line on it."

"El Sombrero is Don Luis's own mine. Surely he hasn't hired us to fool him about his own property."

"I don't know what it is that's wrong," Tom admitted. "Nor am I sure that anything is wrong. But I'm going to do my own watching and gather some of my own information. See, there are the lights on that trail beyond, and there are several lights. It looks like a caravan moving down the trail."

"A caravan?" Harry repeated. "Of what?"

"I don't know, Harry. That's what I'm here to-night to find out."

Brisk, soft walking brought them nearer and nearer to the twinkling lights along the trail that ran into their own road at a point lower down.

"I wish I knew what on earth Tom is thinking about," Harry muttered to himself. "However, I may as well save my breath just now. If I hang to him I'm likely to know what it is."

"We'll reach a hiding place from which we can watch that caravan, or whatever it is, turn from the hill trail into this road," Tom whispered, after they had gone somewhat further.

At this point the main road that ran from. Don Luis's estate to his mine was decidedly irregular. Many boulders jutted out, making a frequent change in the course of the road necessary. It was Tom's intention to gain the nearest ledge of rock of this sort to the hill trail, and there hide to watch the caravan.

They had nearly reached this point when out of the darkness a figure stole softly to meet them.

"Nicolas!" muttered Tom, in a low voice, all but rubbing his eyes.

"How on earth did you get here?"

"Am I not commanded to keep with you everywhere, and serve you in all things?" demanded the servant. "Do not go around that next point in the road, caballeros. If you do, you will run straight into Pedro Gato, who has other men with him."

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